Welcome to the 2010 Year in Review. Beginning Dec. 21, in a time frame just shy of a fortnight, FOXSports.com’s panel of tennis commentators — Matt Cronin, Richard Evans, Zack Pierce, Addie Rising and Brian Webber — will share their thoughts on the topic of the day. So check back each day to catch one final look back at a memorable year in tennis.
TO CONTINUE OUR YEAR IN REVIEW, WE ASK . . . WHAT WERE THE BIGGGEST LESSONS LEARNED IN 2010?
CRONIN: That age is much less relevant than it used to be in a sport that once celebrated its teenagers. The average age of the ATP Tour’s top 100 is now just over 26.2 years, while the average age of the WTA’s top 10 is 26.3 years. The WTA days of Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, Martina Hingis and Serena Williams winning Grand Slams as teenagers seems to have passed, while with six-year dominance by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on the men’s side, it has taken extraordinary efforts from any young player to become relevant.
With 16-times Grand Slams winner Federer and 13-times Grand Slam titlist Serena Williams both 29-years-old and still extremely relevant — and no teenager looking like a major title threat — 2011 may just end up celebrating Veterans Day every day.
EVANS: That tennis is virtually indestructible. Every tournament I attended on three continents either weathered the economic downturn or simply shrugged it off. Some events suffered from reduced corporate spending but the public continued to flock to the game in record-breaking numbers.
The ATP signed Corona as its primary sponsor and, generally, most of the game’s sponsors either maintained their contracts or signed new ones.
The fact that more people are playing the sport is a major factor in its overall health, especially in America, where tennis is the only sport over the last nine years to have increased participation.
During my travels I lost count of the number of people I met who professed a love for the game and who could talk about it knowledgably. Just recently, on a trip to the Everglades I met a young woman who said she had started playing seriously four years ago, had booked her tickets for the ATP event in Delray Beach in February and was rushing off to watch Roger Federer play Rafael Nadal in their Zurich exhibition on ESPN 2. She’s a recent convert, and one of many.
WEBBER: Screenwriter William Goldman once famously summed up the entertainment industry with the pithy observation that "nobody knows anything." That quotation resonates with tennis as well. 2010 offered many examples that the only certainty in tennis is its unpredictability. Roger Federer seemed to build his case to be considered the "greatest player of the Open Era" by winning the Australian Open, but watched Rafael Nadal dominate the rest of the year. Serena Williams overcame most of her obstacles on the court, but could not avoid glass at a German restaurant. Caroline Wozniacki got to No. 1, without having a huge array of weapons or a power game. John Isner and Nicolas Mahut played an endless match that was analogous to a 1930s dance marathon — it just kept on going. Strange things happen between the lines on a tennis court. And you can bet that won’t change in 2011.
Richard Evans and Matt Cronin are tennis writers for FOXSports.com. Brian Webber is a frequent contributor to FOXSports.com’s tennis coverage. Addie Rising and Zack Pierce are tennis editors for FOXSports.com.